Sky Blue FC (0-0-2, 2 Points) welcomed Portland Thorns FC (1-0-1, 4 Points) into Yurcak Field on Saturday night for its 2014 home opener, with both teams earning a point following a 1-1 stalemate. In the match, Sky Blue FC captain Christie Rampone scored her first professional club goal with a 26th minute put-away, while Thorns midfielder Allie Long netted a 75th minute penalty kick to even the tally.
“Tonight, we were a little hesitant and slow to react,” Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra stated. “Offensively, we were pretty balanced getting forward into the wide area. The responsibility there is to get to the end line and serve balls into the box, where you are looking for your striker and one or two midfielders to get there to score. We are a team that will have to rely on balanced scoring this season, but I do not think that is anything that will hold us back.”
In the opening minutes of this contest, Portland forward Christine Sinclair delivered a ball into the left side of the penalty area, where a streaking Long settled before taking a crack at the frame. The shot was deflected away for a corner kick, and the Thorns midfielder headed to the flag to send it back into play. The strike from Long was knocked back to her feet, but her ensuing cross attempt was booted away by Rampone.
Sky Blue FC began to settle down and put together some nice control of possession after early aggression from the Portland attack led to a few dangerous situations. Thorns defender Rebecca Moros then responded with a run down the left flank in the 16th minute before splitting the defense with a through ball to the feet of a racing Jessica McDonald, who found herself in a 1v1 situation with Sky Blue FC netminder Jill Loyden. However, the New Jersey native was more than up to the task being presented to her, stonewalling a hard shot from McDonald.
The following minute, Sky Blue FC created its best scoring opportunity of the young match after Australian defender Caitlin Foord found some space as she crossed midfield and hit full sprint with the ball at her feet. She then looked up and saw first-year striker Maya Hayes in the center of the attack, feeding a ball into the open area in front of her. Hayes then entered a foot race with Portland goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, and the two collided as Angerer collected the loose ball.
The scoring was finally broken in this contest following a diving save by Angerer of a hard strike from midfielder Sophie Schmidt in the 25th minute. On the ensuing corner kick, Sky Blue FC midfielder Katy Freels struck the ball into the penalty area, where Schmidt rose to redirect a header towards the frame. The well-placed attempt was just off target, hitting the post, but Rampone was there to collect and quickly put away the go-ahead notch. In the 26th minute, Sky Blue FC found itself with a 1-0 advantage, and Rampone found herself with the first goal of her professional club soccer resume (eighth season).
“I was boxing out in my basketball move when the ball came across, and I was like ‘Do I clear it or put it in? Where am I?’” Rampone joked about the goal. “It kind of hit off me and went in. It was a fun moment, but then it was immediately back to business.”
Both sides were able to create some near opportunities over the remainder of the opening half, but the Rampone notch would eventually prove to be the difference when the whistle blew for intermission.
In the 64th minute of play, Thorns FC nearly equalized after a play that started off the foot of Sinclair at the top of the 18-yard box, where the Canadian striker fed a ball in space to midfielder Courtney Niemic on the right flank. Niemic then turned and hit a hard roller to McDonald, who redirected a hard curler that sailed just wide of the far post.
Portland was finally able to tie up this contest in the 75th minute after a whistle from the official on Sky Blue FC defender Kelley O’Hara for an inadverted handball in the box while trailing a loose ball. Long was called upon to handle the penalty kick opportunity, and she deadlocked the game at one apiece by tucking a hard strike into the left netting.
The pace of play increased further after the equalizer, with both clubs looking to escape the match with three points. When stoppage time began, a handball was called on Thorns defender Nikki Marshall in the penalty area, resulting in a penalty kick opportunity for the home side. O’Hara then stepped over the ball and struck it towards the frame, but the attempt was just wide of the mark.
The final minute of this pairing was rather intense, but neither club was able to put away the go-ahead tally, resulting in a 1-1 deadlock.
Next up for Sky Blue FC is a road match on April 27th against the Boston Breakers, with the team returning to Yurcak Field on Wednesday, April 30th, to host Seattle Reign FC at 7:00 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit tickets.skybluefc.com or call 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849) today.
Portland Thorns FC vs. Sky Blue FC
April 19, 2014 – Yurcak Field
1 2 F
0 1 1 Portland Thorns FC
1 0 1 Sky Blue FC
PTFC – Angerer, Brooks, Marshall, Menges, Niemiec, Moros (Huffman), McDonald (Acevedo), Farrelly, Long, Shim (Kerr), Sinclair.
SBFC – Loyden, O’Hara, Rampone(C), Goodson, Johnson, Foord, Freels, Kiryu (Lytle), Levin (Nick), Schmidt, Hayes (Ocampo).
72 – N.Marshall (PTFC)
75 – PTFC: A.Long (Converted)
90+ – SBFC: K.O’Hara (Did Not Convert)